The Bay of Quinte Region is a wonderland of active adventure between December and March, with many affordable and close to home ways to ward off the winter blues. Inject some excitement into winter is by taking up a new sport – here are two new ones to try this year.
“To me, snowshoeing is about being able to get out there and enjoy the same trails in the winter that I love using in the summer, as well as finding new ones due to the lakes and marshes being frozen,” says Yarker resident and snowshoe runner Derrick Spafford.
Modern snowshoes are lightweight and ready for adventure – nothing at like the heavy wooden rackets that may come to mind. Investing in a good pair is vital to enjoying the sport. “Hiking and running snowshoes are very different from each other,” says Spafford. “Hiking snowshoes tend to be heavier and have a larger surface area for better floatation in deep snow. Running snowshoes are narrower, extremely lightweight and have flex/spring properties which allow for a more natural running stride,” says Spafford, who also organizes the popular Dion Eastern Ontario Snowshoe Running Series. Running snowshoes can be rented for a very affordable $5 when you register for one of the series races.
Besides snowshoes, insulated hiking boots or trail running shoes, wool socks, windproof mittens, gaiters and windproof layers will keep you warm while you explore the Bay of Quinte.
Trails to Try
“The real beauty of snowshoeing is that you can set your own track. You literally can go anywhere!” enthuses Spafford. He suggests heading to Puzzle Lake Provincial Park – the rugged Canadian Shield and gorgeous lakes are highlights of this undeveloped park. Keep in mind the trails at Puzzle Lake are unmarked, so take your GPS. Snowshoers at Sheffield Conservation Area will be rewarded with stunning scenery along the 4 kilometer marked trail. Those up for a challenge should register for a snowshoe running race! I’ll be at the Dion Red Barn Snowshoe Race in Napanee later this month – hope to see you there!
Waterfront Pub’s gourmet grill cheese and soup combo with coffee or the pulled pork sandwich with a pint is how I recommend warming up after a few hours on the trails.
You may have seen these peculiar looking bicycles since their wide monster truck-like tires and colourful frames draw attention! They’re called fat bikes and riding one is the most fun you’ll have on two wheels since you were a kid. Ruts, snow drifts, logs and ice are no match for the 4” tires of a fat bike, making it feel like you’re riding a cloud…really!
If you’ve never ridden a fat bike before, I suggest renting from Belleville’s Ideal Bike. Store staff will fit the bike to you, explain the basics of shifting and tire pressure and review the local trail system with you. Each bike is fully inspected before you head out on your ride and support from Ideal Bike is just a phone call away. If you want to explore trails outside of Belleville, ask Ideal about renting a rack for your car or delivery to wherever you plan to ride.
Dressing in breathable layers is key since you’ll start out cold but warm up quickly! Then add insulated windproof mittens, a balaclava and winter boots to stay toasty all day long. “Focus on your fingers, toes and nose. They will get coldest,” says Adam Tilley who heads up Ideal Bike’s fat bike rental program. He warns against wearing bulky boots, which makes pedaling difficult. If your boots lace up, tuck in loose ends to keep them from getting stuck in the chain. Each fat bike comes equipped with a water bottle cage, so bring along an insulated bottle to stay hydrated. And don’t forget your helmet!
A short ride from Ideal Bike is Potter’s Creek Conservation Area, which offers over 6 kilometers of quiet trails to familiarize yourself with how the bike handles. To truly get a sense of how much fun fat biking can be, head out of town to gnarlier trails, like Macaulay Mountain near Picton or start north of Belleville in Foxboro where you can hop on the Eastern Ontario Trails Alliance Hastings Heritage Trails.
Indulge yourself at Cafe Sans Souci, just down the block from Ideal Bike. The Montreal Smoked Meat is literally piled high on fresh rye bread, and you can’t beat their homemade dill pickles. If you’re in need of a caffeine fix, head over to L’Auberge de France down the street for a frothy latte to go.